Miss USA and Miss America: What’s the Difference?

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Miss USA and Miss America: What’s the Difference?

By Stephanie Fleming

Miss Universe, Miss USA, Miss America, Little Miss Sunshine……It can all get a little confusing. So, what is what? Isn’t the USA the same as America? Well let’s see. If you look up the definition of The United States of America, one answer you will find is- A country of central and northwest North America with coastlines on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. If you were to also look up America, you would find- place name short for The United States of America. So you could surmise that they are indeed the same. So can’t you assume that the pageants of the same names would also be synonymous?  You might  think so; however nothing could be further from the truth. The Miss USA pageant and Miss America pageant are two totally different pageant systems.

The Miss America organization began as a “beauty” pageant in 1921. It prefers not to be called that anymore due to the fact that swimsuit and evening wear only comprises 35 percent of the overall score.  Miss America has become known as a Scholarship Pageant awarding Scholarships to girls from all 50 states including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. The Miss America pageant including its’ state affiliates is the largest provider of scholarships for women in the United States. In 2006, it awarded more than $45 million dollars in scholarships.   The pageant was initially held in Atlantic City, New Jersey and continued there until the organization moved to Las Vegas, Nevada in January of 2006.  Miss America contestants each have a platform that they spend the years’ reign in their state educating others about. She is considered to be a role model as Miss America is heavily involved in community and charity events during her time as queen.  She travels approximately 20,000 miles per month and her location changes every 24 to 48 hours.  Her reign last for one year until she crowns the next Miss America, but the experience lasts a lifetime.

The Miss USA pageant was born in 1950 when then Miss America, Yolanda Betbeze refused to pose for publicity photos in a swimsuit.  Catalina swimwear decided to pull its sponsorship from the Miss America organization and create their own competition.  Some owners of the Miss USA pageant have been Gulf Western, ITT Corporation and current owner, billionaire Donald Trump who purchased the organization in 1996. The first Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants were held in Long Beach, California. There were only 30 delegates in the first pageant and for 2 decades of the pageants history, many states decided not to compete. The District of Columbia, Alaska and Hawaii do send a delegate to the Miss USA pageant.  Competition is comprised of swimsuit, evening gown and interview. No talent competition. The winner of Miss USA goes to the organization’s sister pageant, Miss Universe. If Miss USA wins Miss Universe, the runner up of  Miss USA carries out the remainder of the year.  Winners are awarded with cash and prizes and public exposure.

There has been controversy involving both organizations. There have also been many women to use each pageant as a platform to further their chosen careers.  There are benefits to both and I am sure there are as many similarities as there are differences. They both provide women an opportunity to express themselves freely as they see fit and that, in and of itself is progress and a good thing.


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